Leading UK ecology consultancy, Thomson Ecology, is providing ecological training for up to 70 Network Rail Engineers to help raise awareness of biodiversity on Network Rail land.

Network Rail is responsible for approximately 30,000 hectares of line-side vegetation which in places runs through designated areas including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and supports a range of protected habitats and species.

If ecology is not considered at the very start of development work it can impact on the delivery of the project by delaying or stopping works due to the seasonal constraints of surveys and mitigation. The training aims to provide Network Rail engineers and project managers, with a better understanding of ecology, which will help reduce implications to projects and keep them on track.

Felicity Andruszko, Senior Ecological Consultant at Thomson Ecology, who has designed the programme said:

“Ecology and biodiversity are essential issues to get right when planning any type of development work. Not prioritising it, can be costly and ultimately derail the timing of a project with knock on effects for other work. The training will provide an overview of biodiversity legislation and policy, and will cover ecological techniques for a range of protected species including great crested newts, reptiles, bats, badgers, dormice, water voles and otters. It will also cover seasonal constraints of protected species surveys and mitigation, and identification of invasive species and how to control them for plants such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed as well as fauna including signal crayfish and mink.”

Paula Marshall, Project Manager at Network Rail, said:

‘We wanted to run a programme which would improve the competency of around 70 key staff primarily in biodiversity conservation and understanding ecological techniques and seasonal constraints. We were very pleased that Thomson Ecology were able to design a training programme to be run at a number of bio diverse Network Rail locations. We expect that the outcome will be very positive for ecology in the planning and construction of track renewals.’

The training will take place at three locations to ensure that it is relevant to everyday scenarios that might be encountered.